When measuring the success of a classroom, you don't need to look further than its teacher and Eric Rush fosters success in his classroom each day.

The 2017 BP Teacher of Excellence said he started on the path to teaching because of a conversation with his girlfriend, who is now his wife, as they discussed plans for college over dinner. 

“I wasn’t really sure what to do," Rush said. "And my wife was like, 'oh I want to be a teacher, you know, I want to go into teaching and everything' and I looked at her, I was like, 'yeah I'll try that.'”

Now in his 10th year teaching in Alaska, Rush says he can't imagine doing anything else. He teaches third-graders at Ticasuk Brown Elementary School in North Pole and says he takes his job very seriously.

“I feel like it’s one of those years in elementary where you can really mold the kids as much as you can before they start to go into intermediate grades, because it’s amazing to see how many kids have negative experiences in schools as early as kindergarten," he said. "I feel like third grade is a great way to really improve that positivity."

When it comes to supplying his students with the tools for success, Rush says it helps to collect data. He says it allows him to better understand his students' grasp of a subject and also helps him build relationships.

"Not only connecting with kids, talking to them one-on-one, seeing what their interests are, but also actually knowing what their deficits are," Rush said. "You know, what their weaknesses are and what they can work on. And I truly believe that gathering data, not making that the focus, but gathering data to help you tailor your instruction. That’s what really helps kids and really helps you build relationships with kids.”

Rush says he uses the latest technologies in his classroom, connecting with teachers from across the nation for unique ways to explain subject matter.

“I like to introduce my students to different things, things that are happening right now, not happening you know 20, 30 years ago," he said. "I like to bring in coding and programming and robotics and VR, virtual reality, augmented reality, things that are happening right now."

Rush also stresses the importance of making mistakes. He does not want his students to be afraid of failure because he says it can be a great motivator.

“Whether it’s math, whether it’s a science project or anything like that, we all make mistakes," he said. "And I try to make mistakes on my board when I do any kind of instruction or anything. I’m like 'oh, I made a mistake, should I lose it? No? Okay, let me fix this.'"

Rush fosters growth through relationship building. He encourages students to learn from mistakes and takes time to understand what works for them. 

“I hope the kids, when they come into my room, they’re experiencing learning from their mistakes," he said. "They’re engaging with their peers. They’re coming up with different questions, you know, just having an overall good experience in school and hopefully that just continues as years go on.”

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